The last episode of Game of Thrones airs tonight. It will mark the end of one of the most buzzworthy television shows ever. There have been so many incredible moments. Ned Stark losing his head, the Red Wedding, Hardhome, et al. Despite a lackluster final season, television will never be the same when it ends and I will miss Game of Thrones.
On a personal level, Game of Thrones marks the beginning of something important. The pilot aired on the same day that my wife and I began dating. She had read the books. I had never heard of George R.R. Martin’s series. If she explained Azor Ahai and the Night King, I’m not sure that would have increased our odds. She told me to just watch. Regardless, I know that I fell for her and Westeros at about the same time… albeit for different reasons.
Somehow, murder, pillaging, and dragons became one of the first things we bonded over. I remember throwing my sneaker near the TV in her parent’s basement when Ned Stark lost his head. I swore to never watch again. Here I am, 72 shows later, having never missed an episode.
The twists of Game of Thrones became more thrilling as the series progressed. Following Season Five, the series deviated from the books… because there were no more books. Finally, after years of her keeping the secrets of Westeros from me, we were all in on the unknown of the series together.
Since then, it has been a joyride as we are decimated and thrilled by the extremes of the series together. We have other (healthier) shared interests, but Game of Thrones is one where we are not sure who is the bigger fan.
The obsession over Game of Thrones goes far beyond our marriage. As a thirty-something, I wonder what it was like to witness legendary cultural nuclear bombs like Empire Strikes Back the first time around. Game of Thrones is the closest thing television has ever had to Star Wars. Its value is enhanced by the collective held breathe of millions of fans worldwide. That will all end tonight.
What has made Game of Thrones so special is that it demands live viewing. In the streaming age, we may binge Stranger Things in one weekend, but it is not the same. The waiting and all-in immersion is a thrill because of the collective experience.
The individual moments are memorable because we watch episodes at the same time, lest it be spoiled. You have to watch it live or risk living with a ticking time bomb that a quick glance at your phone could explode. Fewer people watch TV at the same time anymore. The age of Cheers being in last place with millions of viewers is a dead thing.
Game of Thrones is something that my wife, friends, and co-workers talk about after each show. Episodes like “The Long Night” and “Battle of the Bastards” feel like playoff games. The watercooler quality of having to watch now or be left out is huge. Even people who don’t watch Game of Throne are not shy to share why.
Obviously, we will move on after Game of Thrones. The earth will spin on its axis. There will be other cultural moments. It is doubtful that any will be as chaotic and ground-breaking as HBO’s fantasy series. Even though a poor last season and the disastrous episode “The Bells” has made me apathetic about the finale, I know that I will be disappointed after the show ends. This will not be because of however the writers wrap the story. Unlike the characters and CGI, the collective viewing experience (even the disappointing ones) is what I will miss after Game of Thrones finishes.